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Sex Offender Working at O.C. Fair Caught, Sentenced

July 16, 2005|Lomi Kriel | Times Staff Writer

A registered child-sex offender was caught working at the Orange County Fair this week, revealing a flaw in its screening process and prompting an immediate check of all part-time employees, officials said Friday.

Steven Henry Torres, 44, of Anaheim was arrested Tuesday for violating his probation, said Orange County Fair spokeswoman Lisa MacDonald. He was sentenced Friday to three years in state prison.

His probation officer was part of a police team patrolling the fairgrounds and recognized him, said Vicki Mathews, a spokeswoman for Orange County's Probation Department.

Torres was previously convicted of lewd or lascivious acts with a child under the age of 14 and is listed on Megan's Law computer database of registered sex offenders. As a condition of his probation, he is not allowed in areas that "attract a lot of children," Mathews said.

Torres was hired through a temporary employment agency, which did not check employees against the database, said Tony Fiori, a spokesman for Ray Cammack Shows Inc., the Arizona-based carnival midway operator that has worked with the Orange County Fair since 1995. "This is something that unknowingly slipped through the cracks," he said.

The carnival midway operator hired about 250 temporary workers through the employment agency, Fiori said, and will screen them all.

In 1998, a unicycle-riding performer resigned after admitting to fair officials that he had molested two girls in 1991. His name didn't show up on a criminal background check because he had never been arrested.

The same year, the leader of a visiting children's dance troupe was banned when a parent reported that he was a registered sex offender. Visiting performers and food vendors who are not on the fair's payroll are not screened.

The Orange County Fair, which hires about 1,300 temporary employees, started screening employees against the data base shortly after it was created, said Becky Bailey-Findley, the fair's chief operating officer. It also conducts DMV checks and past employment checks, she said, but, as a state agency, it cannot do drug tests.

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